Thursday, August 04, 2011


I’ll bet a case could be made (and I’ll wager someone’s already made it) that the rise of the internet—especially being able to post comments online and hold forth, as I am doing, on one’s own personal forum—has correlated with, if not actually contributed to, the decline of civil discourse in politics and society at-large.

On the interwebs, nobody talks to one another; we do a pretty good job of talking at each other, but I’m not sure it’s co-mmunication; maybe all we do is “municate.”

The machinations over the recent effort to raise the country’s debt ceiling seemed to characterize what I’m talking (not communicating!) about. We saw a lot of politicians holding forth with their views but not really listening to what anyone else had to say. In the end, I guess there was some exchange of perspective, but that was more about horse-trading than human interaction.

Of course, conversation is a lost art; it’s difficult to really engage in dialogue with another person when the whole time they’re speaking, you’re trying to come up with a witty rejoinder or find some fault in their argument that you can exploit. Most of us never actually converse; at best, just take part in parallel versing, like some sort of weird competitive poetry slam.

And duh, it’s totally oxymoronic for me to be writing about this; I’m doing the very thing I’m complaining about—but, you see, I’m doing it intentionally, “in quotes,” so I get a free pass.

Anytime you’re feeling too good about yourself and your fellow human beings, all you have to do is go to your favorite newspaper site and read a few pages of readers’ comments on an article about an issue that’s even the least bit contentious. Whenever I really want to get myself all worked up, I read what folks have to say in response to a story about bicycling; like Ring Lardner said, “Shut up,” I explained.


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